IN ZAPOTEC VILLAGES
The Bidxáa transforms into fawn, heifer, filly…this is the cocoon stage. Each month she then blossoms: woman with wide hips, breasts pendant and moonshine hair. She bathes at midnight, her scent overpowering like cinnamon, mezcal, fields after rain. River water glistens on her limbs while her skin simmers the thirst of adolescent boys.
There is nothing subtle about vinegar; its odor bites the air, and its acidity burns the throat the way salt sears into asphalt after snow has melted, leaving stains like semen dried on sheets. The ruddiest vinegars are tears mixed with russet hickory, grapes crushed in a fist, or springtime hiking up her skirt to reveal the hyacinths and shade that smells of rain and mud under fern leaves. There is something impassible about the maker of vinegar whose hands scoop the acetic slime that is like blood and fluids a new father sponges from the bathroom floor onto which his wife oozed the drainage after labor, and he squeezes it into a bucket of cold water. The maker of vinegar denied himself the ostentatious rose, or the odorless glass of water that on blinding afternoons glistens with cleanliness and transparency. He opted for the turning, for the dark joy that the butcher must also suck in, like a deep inhalation after tears, when he beholds the meat aging dun-gray, like the flakes inside an old walnut shell. I swig tart balsamic, or sharp cider vinegar, and the flies I once swallowed erupt from my sugared throat, scalding my laughter raw, and my teeth black with wolves. I dab white vinegar behind my ears and the fat-thighed sirens of Roualt in garrets gray as congealing lard teach me about the alleyways leading to smoke and nausea, and the wilted trumpet of deflated delectations. It takes a brave man to brew what doesn’t infuse the joy of wine, nor the comfort of milk, but only the even thudding of autumn shedding leaves, or sea-spume splurting into the split boards of a sinking argosy, trunk-loads of gold amulets and sheepskin charters washing back and forth in the water rising evenly, like some Homeric simile that takes five lines to lap over into its outcome. No, there is nothing soft about vinegar, nothing soothing. Not her slipper’d left foot, but the blunt gaze of Olympia. Not the lips against the cut finger, but the stinging disinfectant. I want to run vinegar through my teeth, and dip my eyes at last in such acid. I want to rub it over my limbs and chest so that butterflies will shatter while the crows and ants adore me, swarming in raucous beauty.
I sleep like a family without a father, an orphan who clutches the fingers of his mother the color of ivy. Hinge clicks open, and crows are unleashed, staining the page black. I write what shatters, a goblet or the cool shell of a snail. After rain, earthworms are untied, and the earth opens her jaw so that I can imagine the congealing liquids in the iris of a dead dog. I spill open, like spiders stretching from the silk-sack eggs, or hair wafting of a drowned virgin, her skin peeling against the teeth of icy water. Because it rains inside the poem, and I cup my palms during this downpour, yet don’t gather enough to wash the dirt from my sleep. Hungering, emaciated like a candle burnt to the wick, I discover language, stale and with as much sweetness as a piece of bread, with as much nourishment. Slice of bread can’t feed a family.
Anthony Seidman is the author of three collections, including the recent Where Thirsts Intersect, published by the Bitter Oleander Press. Readers interested in my work can find poems and translations in such journals as Slipstream, The Bitter Oleander, Skidrow Penthouse, Nimrod, The Black Herald and on-line in Alligatorzine.